How wild is this? Seattle’s Massive Monkees breakdancing crew has been throwin’ it down since 1999 and is still going strong. They’ve won world championships, been featured on ”America’s Best Dance Crew”, danced with Macklemore in “Downtown”, and sooo much more.
But what keeps them near and dear to our hearts is that they remain a proudly local group. Most members are Seattle natives and are heavily involved with community after-school programs and classes.
This weekend, the crew celebrates their 23rd anniversary with a full schedule of events that round out with a breakdancing competition for Massive Monkees Day on Sun., May 29 at the Neptune. We caught up with longtime dancer Hocine Jouini to talk about the crew.
Q: What does this anniversary mean to you?
A: For us, it’s definitely a blessing. But it means a lot especially because this year, we’re actually going to introduce the new generation of Massive Monkees at Massive Monkee Day. We’ve been working hard [...] to bring this new generation up. It means a lot to be able to pass this on. We’ll still be involved, but this is more of a passing of the torch ritual.
Q: How has the crew changed and grown over the years?
A: We’ve all grown as adults. We’re all at the point in our lives that we have kids now who all play together. Lately, it’s been about making the most out of the time we have together because it’s not like we see each other all the time now.
Q: How did you get involved with Massive Monkees?
A: I’m originally from France, so I would see Massive Monkees at battles and competitions in Europe. And then I came to the US for an internship, so I worked there during the day and taking classes with Massive Monkees at night. Through that I built a relationship with the group, and when they needed someone to fill in during their European tour, they called me. After that, I just kept coming back for shows — and then they just put me down as a team member.
Q: Where do you all come up with your choreography?
A: It’s really a group thing. We’re known for our routines because many breakdancing crews were doing solos, but we started building so many types — some funny and some very exciting. We do it together.
Q: The crew’s moves are so crisp. What’s the training and rehearsal process like?
A: For the ones that are active in the crew, we practice a little less now because we are older. We do strength and conditioning on our own every day and then practice probably two to three times a week. As long as you keep in a very good shape and you still practice, you’ll be good. Before, we used to practice every day.
Q: What’s the hardest move you’ve had to learn?
A: I was never able to learn how to flip. For others it’s natural, but not for me. I tried for awhile, but then I just gave up. I said “Okay, my style’s just not gonna have any flips.”
Q: What moments stick out to you from the year’s you’ve spent breakdancing?
A: We were on tour with Macklemore and went to the VMAs with him. The after-party had two entrances — a main one for regular people and a red carpet for artists. As we were walking on the red carpet, security came up and told us we couldn’t get in — only Macklemore could — and we would have to go to the regular entrance. And then Macklemore said “Well, if you can’t get in, I won’t go either. We’ll all go to the main entrance.” So we went and the people were just tripping. There were just thousands of people who weren’t expecting to see one of the main stars.
Also, Jerome in our group has been teaching Scott Oki, who was one of the first Microsoft employees, and he loves to dance. We even performed with him last year and he’s, like, in his 70s. It was amazing to see that you can be 70+ and rock a breakdancing show. Anybody can do it.
Q: What’s kind of performances are your favorite?
A: Overall, the funnest for me are when we do NBA shows because it gets super hype and the crowds are very loud — especially for college basketball. We also really like doing community shows because you get closer to people and you get to talk to everyone.
Q: Breakdancing is now a part of the summer Olympics. Any plans?
We already have a member who is an official Olympic judge. We’re also planning on perhaps organizing the Northwest qualifier because each region will have to qualify someone before the national qualifier. And then hopefully someone from the newer generation can take [the gold medal]. The 2024 Olympics may be a little too early, but definitely the 2026 games.
Q: So what’s Massive Monkee Day?
A: There is a main battle that features all sorts of styles [...] It’s usually one of the top competitions in the world. But this year, we’re starting with a free event at Hing Hay Park where the battle qualifiers will happen. We’ll also have DJs, live graffiti artists, a car show, street booths and vendors. We’re excited to activate the Chinatown International-District.